This remarkable movement was inaugurated by the late
bishop of Durham, Dr. Lightfoot, at Bishop-Auckland, Durham, England,
Feb. 14, 1888, Miss Ellice Hopkins being present and taking part. Dr.
Lightfoot was led to this action by a study of the moral
condition of those northern counties of England that came under
especial notice, in connection with the reform work prosecuted by Miss
Hopkins. Erelong it was found necessary to draw up a brief statement of
principles, and this was mainly accomplished at a conference held at
St. Peter's, Eaton square, London, Colonel Everett Poole being the
chief author of this moral creed which, apparently, is
destined to be as extended as the human race :
treat all women with respect, and endeavor
to protect them from wrong and degradation.
- To endeavor to put down all indecent language and coarse jests.
- To maintain the law of purity as equally binding upon men and women.
- To endeavor to spread these principles among my companions, and to try and help my younger brothers.
- To use every possible means to fulfil the command, " Keep thyself pure."
movement soon began to spread, and In due time it reached seats of
learning like those at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Dublin, and
then began to find its way to India, Africa, Australia, and Canada.
Soon after it was begun in England, it attracted the attention of the
young men of the church of St. John the Evangelist, New
York City, and, through their rector (B. F. De Costa), they put
themselves in connection with the leaders of the movement in England,
receiving authority to proceed in the work of organization and to
republish the White Cross literature. " Branch Number One" was thus
After long and careful
preparation the society held its first public meeting, Sunday evening,
Feb. 8, 1885, in the parish church, the bishop of Iowa (W. S. Perry)
taking the place of the bishop of New York (H. Potter) among the
speakers. Accounts of this meeting were published the next morning in
the leading newspapers throughout the United States, and from that day
the White Cross Movement found itself one of the recognized
institutions. The movement was at once taken up by many young
mens' Christian associations, and the president of Branch Number One
was called to visit remote regions of the country to aid in
Though the White Cross Society is distinctly a
society for men, all classes are invited to
cooperate, and the National Woman's
Christian Temperance Union at once organized a "Department of Social
Purity, co-operating with the White Cross," in which work they have
been followed by the Non-Partisan Union. Oct. 25,1886, several bishops
of the Protestant Episcopal Church, at Chicago, set forth a
"declaration" in favor of the White Cross Movement, which subsequently
received the endorsement of nearly every member of the House of
Bishops, saying that "the object of the White Cross Society is to
elevate opinion respecting the nature and claims of morality, with its
equal obligation upon men and women, and to secure a proper practical
recognition of its precepts on the part of the individual, the
family, and the nation." This strikes a severe blow at the double
standard of morality, which allows that what is sin in a woman is to
be tolerated in man.
This platform was offered for the acceptance
of Christian people of all denominations, and it has been widely
adopted, both in the United States and Canada, where it has been
carefully prosecuted in connection with the work of the Good
Templars, the White Cross being associated with the highest degree.
The White Cross Movement is co-operative, and associates itself with
churches, temperance societies, Christian
Endeavor societies, Sunday-schools, Bible classes, and guilds.
Societies are now at work in every part of the land, and probably not
less than one million of men are now individually,
or through some society, committed to the work of the White Cross with
a future of vast usefulness before it.
Under the direction of a
publication committee, composed of bishops and others, twenty of the
White Cross papers, together with à manual of the White Cross, have
been published by E. P. Dutton & Co., New York City, the papers
having been carefully revised by Miss Hopkins and published with her
approval. To the White Cross Society there has been added a junior
branch for bovs, entitled "The Silver Cross," suggested
by the bishop of Central New York, F. D. Huntington, together with
"The White Shield for Women," organized by Miss Frances E. Willard, and "The Daughters of the Temple for Girls," suggested by the
undersigned, B. F. DeCosta.
Entry from The Concise Dictionary of Religious Knowledge and Gazetteer, 1889
White Cross Movement was a religious and purity campaign of the 1880s
that attempted to address changing gender relationships as more
middle-class women entered the workforce and the public sphere. See E.R. Shepherd's True Manhood, A Manual For Young Men, a Guide to Physical Strength, Moral Excellence, Force of Character, and Manly Purity (1888). Shepherd
related a couple of pertinent anecdotes about the moral dangers that
could snare innocent young working women, then solemnly admonished
his male readers:
That young women are
largely entering into business life and thus mingling much more freely
than formerly in business circles, is no occasion
for letting down the barriers of courtesy and consideration which should mark intercourse
with them. Rather it is demanded that thoughtful young men create on
these new lines yet higher standards of demeanor. A noble young
business man of pure heart and life, and of princely bearing, said
recently, "All of my young lady friends are girls who are
self-supporting, and I am proud of them. I do not desire as my
friends any other kind."